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ACT TWO, SCENE SEVEN
The Common Man will be a jailer. He is muttering about the low pay scale jailers have. He locks More into a cage. There is a rack for torture nearby. More lies down in the cage. Thomas Cromwell, the Duke of Norfolk and Thomas Cranmer are sitting at a table. Richard Rich is behind them, standing. The Common Man mentions that jailers would let More out if they could, but the cost would be too high. The cost would be taking More’s place in jail. The Common Man reads about the future. Cromwell was found guilty and executed. Norfolk was found guilty but escaped execution because the king died the night before his execution was scheduled. Cranmer was burned at the stake. Rich died a natural death.
The jailer wakes More and he grumbles. The jailer tells him who is there. More acts like he is honored by the distinguished guests. Norfolk insists that a seat be brought for More, and one is brought. Norfolk starts by stating that this is the Seventh Commission appointed by the king to investigate Sir Thomas.
Cromwell asks More if he has seen the document before them, the Act of Succession. When More says that he has, Cromwell asks him if he will sign it. More will not. Norfolk states that they need to know if he will recognize the offspring of Queen Anne as legitimate heirs to the throne. More explains. The king says that they are. Therefore he recognizes them. He will swear to it. Norfolk believes that he should then be willing to swear to the Act of Succession. Cromwell reminds Norfolk that there is more to the Act. Norfolk wants to know exactly what in the Act More finds objectionable. Cranmer makes an attempt to find out, but to no avail. More will not answer. Norfolk says that More is insulting the king through the commission. More means to insult no one. However, he will not say what his objections are, or even if he actually has objections. Norfolk wants to know why he is quibbling about this. More explains that he cannot be executed for refusing to sign. He can only be executed by claiming to have treasonable reasons for not signing.
Norfolk tries a different approach. He tells More to look at the names of those who have signed the Act. They are men that More knows. More could sign along with them for fellowship. More asks Norfolk if he will go to hell with him for fellowship when God judges him for not following what his conscience dictates.
More tells the men that he will only tell the king his grounds for refusing to take the oath. He will not tell them or anyone else. More wants to go back to sleep. Cromwell thinks that More is not mindful of the gravity of this matter. There are harsher punishments than jail.
Cranmer sees no reason to continue the interview. Pleased that the interrogation is over, but alert to an opportunity to request something that he has been longing for, More asks if he may have more books. Cromwell did not know until now that More had access to any books. He denies the request. Then More makes another request close to his heart. He wants to be able to visit his family. That also is denied.
Cromwell questions the jailer about what he might have heard while guarding the prisoner. He needs information on what More might have said about the kings divorce, his marriage, or the king’s position as head of the church in England. The jailer has heard nothing. After being prodded, the jailer swears that he will report anything More says about the King, or the Council. He will be compensated with fifty guineas, he is told, but he should not consider the compensation to be a bribe.
The jailer leaves. He is alarmed by the size of the bribe. He decides to be deaf instead.
Cromwell tells Rich to take away More’s books. When Norfolk begins to object, Cromwell reminds them all that the king is impatient. Then, as though being reminded of what royal impatience can lead toward, he approaches the rack.
Norfolk and Cramner leave. Cromwell and Rich are alone. Rich tell Cromwell that Sir Redvers Llewellyn has retired from his post as Attorney-General for Wales. Cromwell cannot be bothered while he is so deeply involved with the king and More. Cromwell considers using the rack on More, but knows that the king would not approve in this case.
The jailer, played by the Common Man, is most concerned about his own skin. He doesn’t want to do anything that will bring grief to himself. He really doesn’t care what happens to others. He seems to side with the prisoner, Sir Thomas More, but not enough to help him escape, according to the Common Man. He will help him by refusing to hear what he says, but only coincidentally. His goal in not listening is, again, keeping himself out of trouble.
Richard Rich is climbing the ladder of success. With cooperation from Cromwell, he has a chance to become Attorney General for Wales. Will he do what Cromwell will require of him to get the position? Judging by how he has acted and spoken in earlier scenes, it seems that he will.
Thomas Cranmer became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1533 and still held the position at the time of this scene. His help in gaining the divorce of the king from Queen Katherine caused the king to favor him.
When More starts asking for favors, he first requests books and only after that he requests visits with his family. This illustrates the importance of books in his life.